The Acting Company, formed by John Houseman eight years ago from alumni of the Juilliard School's theater program, will become the official touring company of the Kennedy Center, it was announced yesterday.
It is a marriage of convenience that, its makers hope, will help the Acting Company raise money and help the Kennedy Center respond to congressional pressure to serve the county as a whole.
The Acting Company performed three plays at the Kennedy Center in October and is expected back in future seasons. It is the only year-round toring company of Actors Equity players in the United States. This year's itinerary includes such remote sistes as Aurora, N.Y., and Denton, Tex. -- both one-night stands -- and a six-week visit to Australia.
The new tie was proclaimed at a Kennedy Center press conference yesterday along with a $100,000 grant to the Acting Company from Conoco, Inc. The money and the Kennedy Center link, according to executive proucer Margo Harley, should help the company add more actors, increase rehearsal time and mount a more ambitious repertory of plays.
Beyond continuing to bring its touring productions to the Kennedy Center, however, the Acting Company's affiliation with the Center was left somewhat ambiguous.
The Acting Company will continue to be administered independently, and will not necessarily receive any direct Kennedy Center subsidy -- although "emergencies might come up to alter that," said Roger L. Stevens, the Center's chairman.
Kennedy Center officials pointed out that the Center would be giving an indirect subsidy to the Acting Company merely by hosting it at a financial loss, as it did last fall.
Also Schneider, one of the Acting Company's troika of artistic directors, predicted that the link would develop into something more than good public relations. "My friend Nietzsche used to say that the great moments in life come not with the sounds of thunder and lightning, but softly, with the music of doves," said Schneider.
In a related -- but unpublicized -- development, the Kennedy center appears to have drawn back from plans to launch a major joint repertory company with the New York Shakespeare Festival. After months of discussions, Stevens and Festival founder Joseph Papp have agreed on a more distant alliance, a later starting date and a shorter season than they envisioned when the project was just "a gleam in the eye."
"I think it's coming down here," said Stevens, "but it will be [Papp's] project, not a joint one." Papp said last week that the proposed company could start operations at the end of 1980.